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When you exhaust yourself exploring the great outdoors on a camping trip, you want to be sure you can get the restorative sleep you need to continue the adventure the next day.

“How well you sleep can pretty much determine the outcome of your entire camping experience,” said Scott Wilkinson, the director of communications and marketing at the Pacific Crest Trail Association.

Escaping to nature doesn’t have to mean sacrificing comfort or the pain-relieving support traditional mattresses offer. Today’s air mattresses, air pads, and sleeping pads are versatile and designed for a solid night’s sleep, whether you’re hiking in the backcountry or settling in for a backyard slumber party.

  • Made for camping. These products are all designed for the wear and tear of outdoor use. That means incorporating thicker fabrics, nonslip elements, and reinforced seams.
  • Customer reviews. We considered customer reviews to see how they perform in real life. While most of these mattresses are available on Amazon, we also considered reviews from websites that specialize in outdoor gear, like REI and Backcountry.com
  • Company reputation and transparency. We recommend products from reputable brands that have good reputations and disclose materials and manufacturing processes.
  • Warranty and policy. Camping gear is durable, but a camping mattress won’t last you as long as the one you invest in for your bedroom. Most outdoor gear companies offer a 2- to 5-year warranty, and that could also vary with a third-party seller.
  • Expert recommendations. We got insights from experienced campers who also work full-time facilitating outdoor experiences for other people.

Pricing guide

Prices are based on twin- or single-size mattresses unless otherwise noted.

  • $ = under $100
  • $$ = $100–$200
  • $$$ = over $200

Best memory foam camping mattress

Better Habitat SleepReady Memory Foam Roll Out Mattress

  • Price: $$
  • Mattress type: Memory foam
  • Height: 3 inches

Like all foam camping mattresses, this option is as simple as it gets: just unbag, unclip, and roll it out. The 3-inch thick memory foam is one of the thickest camping mattress options we could find.

Memory foam is plush and comfortable, and a 2018 study found that the material is excellent at reducing body pressure and comfort in all sleeping positions.

Made with durability in mind, this camping mattress also has a waterproof cover and slip-resistant bottom. Reviewers like the convenient carry bag and say it’s thick enough to not feel minor bumps and indentations on the ground or whatever surface you place it on.

Buy the Better Habitat SleepReady Memory Foam Roll Out Mattress online.

Best camping air mattress

SoundAsleep Camping Series Air Mattress

  • Price: $
  • Mattress type: Air mattress
  • Height: 9 inches

An air mattress is the best bet to get high off the ground while camping, outside of a cot. “For those with physical challenges, sometimes being further off the ground is easier in terms of getting up,” says Asia Bradford, the founder of Black Girls Camp, a nonprofit devoted to increasing the number of Black women who love the outdoors and helping them learn to do so safely.

She prefers the firmness an air mattress can provide. Not only can it be easier to get in and out of bed, but a taller air mattress can also keep you warmer since you’re totally separated from the cold ground — unless you’re camping in especially cold weather and the mattress fills with air the same temperature as outside.

This option is specifically designed for camping, with extra thick material for durability and a portable, rechargeable pump. The internal air coils increase support and prevent air leakage, and reviewers say the queen size fits comfortably in the back of an SUV.

Buy the SoundAsleep Camping Series Air Mattress online.

Best camping mattress for couples

Exped MegaMat 10 Sleeping Pad, Duo

  • Price: $$$ (double)
  • Mattress type: Self-inflating pad
  • Height: 3.9 inches

This is a self-inflating sleeping pad great for people sharing a sleeping space. Simply open the valve and the open-cell foam core expands in a few minutes. You can also top it off with additional air to customize the cushioning.

It’s designed to have level support and strong edges, so one person’s movement and sleeping style doesn’t affect the other person’s comfort. This pad also has a high R-value, which measures how well it insulates you from the cold. REI recommends an R-value of at least 5.5 for cold weather camping, and this pad has a value of 8.1, making it a great option for cold weather adventuring.

Keep in mind that this pad weighs in at nearly 10 pounds, so it might be best for car camping or staying at a campsite. It’s a bit heavy for backpacking.

Buy the Exped MegaMat 10 Sleeping Pad, Duo online.

Best camping mattress for backpacking

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad

  • Price: $$
  • Mattress type: Air pad
  • Height: 2.5 inches

When embarking on a multi-day backpacking trip, every ounce counts, but that shouldn’t mean you have to sacrifice a good night’s sleep. The regular-size NeoAir UberLite is only 8.8 ounces and packs into a bag the size of a large water bottle.

Reviewers say the pad is thick enough to be comfortable, even for side sleepers who don’t want their hips digging into the ground. Not only is it light and compact, but the material is also quiet when you shift during sleep.

Elyse Rylander, the founder of OUT There Adventures, a nonprofit adventure education program created for queer youth, turns to her NeoAir when she backpacks around North America. She says it has held up for over 8 years.

It’s also important to remember that this isn’t a self-inflating option. It comes with a pump sack to inflate, so it takes a little more work to get set up. Additionally, some reviewers say the thin material isn’t as durable and contributes to deflation throughout the night.

Buy the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad online.

Most durable camping mattress

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL Sleeping Pad

  • Price: $
  • Mattress type: Foam pad
  • Height: 0.75 inches

Closed-cell pads are known for affordability and ability to withstand wear. This close-cell foam option is extremely durable and easy to use. It’s great for campers who are hard on their gear or don’t want to risk rupturing an air pad.

“The advantage to the flat, thin, closed-cell foam non-inflatable pads is that they’re bombproof,” Wilkinson says. “They’re not going to get a hole in them. They’ll last forever.” Additionally, he touts a foam pad’s versatility: You can throw it down on any surface and it will work.

The egg carton design in the Z Lite SOL was designed to promote comfort and help keep you warm by trapping air under your sleeping bag. The accordion-style design also makes it super simple to store and use.

This pad only has an R-value of 2.0, so while it’s great for warmer weather, it may not provide enough insulation in colder months. Also, closed-cell foam pads will be on the firmer side, and the average sleeper may not find them comfortable enough, Wilkinson says.

Buy the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite SOL Sleeping Pad online.

Best self-inflating camping mattress

Exped MegaMat 10 Sleeping Pad, Single

  • Price: $$$
  • Mattress type: Self-inflating pad
  • Height: 3.9 inches

This is the solo option of the MegaMat 10 Sleeping Pad, Duo, which we recommend for couples. Like that model, this MegaMat has a comfortable, level surface thanks to high grade open cells and horizontal air channels.

You can also customize the inflation by topping off the mattress with the included mini pump after it self inflates. In addition, the MegaMat has an R-value of 8.1, making it excellent for cold weather.

Rylander is a big fan of Exped pads, and the cushion is great for her hips when sleeping on her side.

“They’re the most comfortable for a reason,” she says. “But obviously you’re losing out on packability. But they’re fantastic for sure. And I’ve sometimes even opted to bring them on a backpacking trip just because I want to be comfortable.”

Buy the Exped MegaMat 10 Sleeping Pad, Single online.

Best budget camping mattress

Klymit Static V Sleeping Pad

  • Price: $
  • Mattress type: Air pad
  • Height: 2.5 inches

This is a highly rated pad for a great value. While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles as some more expensive options, it’s compact and comfortable. It’s super lightweight — weighing in just over a pound when packed — and is designed to only take 10 to 15 breaths to fully inflate.

Some reviewers complain about air leaking out through the night, but many find it the perfect option for the price.

Buy the Klymit Static V Sleeping Pad online.

Best camping cot mattress

Coleman Camping Cot, Air Mattress, and Pump Combo

  • Price: $$
  • Mattress type: Cot with attached mattress
  • Height: 23.5 inches

This is a super convenient option that combines both a cot and its mattress. Cots are excellent for campers who have a hard time getting up from the ground or use a wheelchair.

The air mattress on this cot is constructed with air coils for a level of firmness and support. It also has a reinforced valve so it doesn’t deflate. Reviewers love the cot’s ease of use and say it doesn’t sacrifice comfort.

Buy the Coleman Camping Cot, Air Mattress, and Pump Combo online.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when shopping for a camping mattress.

Style of camping

Different camping mattresses fit different camping styles, so consider what type you’re doing, whether it’s car camping, tent camping, or backpacking. A memory foam option is great to fit in the back of an SUV, but it’ll be difficult to haul on a trail.

Mattress type

There are a few different types of camping mattress, and determining what’s best for you comes down to personal preference. “Know what you need, and then don’t skimp on that,” Bradford recommends. Here are some common options you’ll see while shopping:

  • Self-inflating pad. These have open-cell foam that expands when you release a valve. They have the cushiness of foam and some customizability to “top off” with air.
  • Foam pads. Usually made of closed-cell foam, these pads are denser and more durable than other types of camping mattresses.
  • Air pads. These require inflation with a pump, pump sack, or breath. They’re great for campers and backpackers who need lightweight gear.
  • Air mattresses. These require a heavier duty inflation pump, but get you off the ground and gives great insulation.

Mattress size and weight

Consider what it’ll be like to haul your mattress when it’s packed, as well as its footprint when set up. Pay attention to how much weight the mattress will add and how far you may have to carry it. A standard 25- or 30-inch width should give you enough space to sleep comfortably. Backpacking pads are often more narrow to preserve space.

R-value

This refers to how insulated the mattress is. The higher the R-value, the more suited the mattress is for cold conditions. For three season use, look for an R-value of least 3. For cold weather camping, go for a rating of 5.5 and above. You can combine pads to increase R-value. For example, a self-inflating mattress on top of a closed-cell pad will give you more insulation.

Durability

Camping mattresses are generally durable by design. When shopping for a mattress, check out the Denier ratings, which quantify its durability — mattresses with higher ratings offer better tear resistance. These ratings can usually be found in product descriptions, so keep an eye out for them while shopping.

Company repair policies

Bradford recommends finding gear from companies with replacement or repair policies. These products may have a higher price point, but she said it’s worth it in the long run.

Most often, your bedding with a camping mattress will be a sleeping bag. A camping sleep system includes the pad, mattress, and your own clothing. All three of these elements work in tandem to keep you warm and comfortable.

If you’re placing the mattress directly on the ground, inspect the area first to make sure there are no sharp rocks that can damage the sleeping pad.

After use, brush off the mattress before repacking, since a small rock stuck to the surface could easily puncture it when rolled up. As for cleaning, warm water and a sponge — and mild detergent for more difficult spots — will get the job done.

There are many different types of camping mattresses available, depending on your camping style and weight considerations.

Self-inflating and memory foam options will offer cushion and comfort, but they’re often heavier. Air mattresses get you off the ground and can be good for people with limited mobility, while air pads compress well and are excellent for backpackers.

Choose the system best for your sleeping style so you can power up and appreciate the great outdoors.


Sara Wilson is a freelance journalist interested in health policy, wellness, and politics. Her work has appeared in Morning Consult, MarketWatch, Sojourners, and others. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama and Northwestern University. She loves historical fiction, long trips to a museum, and chatting with her 8-year-old cat Ethel. Follow her on Twitter.